We’re a group of friends and family in various parts of the world, and we’re sharing our experiences and thoughts while on lockdown, in quarantine, or self-isolation. Join us – be like Michael, below – guest posts welcome!
Mind the Gap
Michael D. Purzycki, Arlington, Virginia
Those of us who are fairly young, and who grew up middle or upper class but had working class grandparents, can easily feel inadequate when we compare ourselves with them. To the extent that we can understand what a Depression and a World War are like, we don’t want to go through those struggles ourselves. But compared to a generation that built bridges, dammed rivers, and defeated the Axis, it’s very easy for us to feel weak, lazy, irrelevant, and inferior.
For many Americans, #coronavirus might bring us closer than anything else to the experiences of our grandparents and great-grandparents. While social distancing is much less painful than soup lines and ration books, this is the first time a lot of us have been called upon to sacrifice. I don’t mean being deprived of opportunities, like the financial crisis did to us. I mean having to actively give something up, having to agree to limits on our daily lives for the common good.
There are three things I hope will happen because of COVID-19, things that might narrow the gap my generation (I’m 34) sees between our weakness and our grandparents’ toughness. They will be good, whether or not they happen because of government. In fact, for us to really appreciate them, we will have to embrace and insist on them regardless of what our politicians want.
I hope we start saving more and spending less. After living through the Depression, the Greatest Generation sacrificed even more material comforts during the war. They went along with food rationing and grew Victory Gardens. They carpooled and drove more slowly to save fuel and rubber. They gave up pots, pans, and even wrought-iron fences, so the metal could be turned into tanks, ships, and planes.
Many of us Millennials growing up in late 20th century affluence couldn’t understand why our grandparents were so frugal, why they held on to so many things for so long. Even the Great Recession, and all the ways it held us back, didn’t really make us less consumers and more savers. Healthcare and housing were expensive, but Amazon Prime and Uber weren’t, and Facebook and Twitter, with all the enticing ads they showed, were free. Maybe the new uncertainty, the restrictions financial and otherwise we face as we flatten the curve, will make us more reluctant spenders overall.
I hope there are a lot more chances to serve. We are long past the age when we needed a large percentage of us to put on uniforms and pick up guns, and hopefully we’ll never see those days again. But we’re learning just how important good government – or the lack of it – is for all of us, how important it is to have public officials and public servants who know what to do and do it well.
What if, besides military service, young Americans had the chance to spend a few years building hospitals and medical equipment, or inspecting food and medication to make sure they’re safe, or paving roads and streets? That would be great to have. That would be a great way to narrow the gap between the iPhone generation and the generation of GI Joe and Rosie the Riveter.
Finally, strangely, I hope our elected leaders become more distant from us. We’ve grown accustomed to politicians acting like our friends, pretending to understand our problems, avoiding saying anything bad about anyone who might give them a vote or a dollar. I’d rather they stopped acting. I’d rather they spent their time gathering information, listening to experts, and making cool-headed decisions behind closed doors, not holding photo ops and proclaiming that they have the situation under control.
I like the fact that, when Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders had their last debate, there was no live audience. That should be the case at all debates. Politicians don’t need any more incentives to seek applause than they already have. It would be great if, even when it’s safe to gather in large numbers again, politicians didn’t feel the need to be surrounded by adoring crowds.
Coronavirus may not disrupt the world the way a depression combined with a world war can. But if the disruption it brings to daily life makes spenders more frugal, citizens more service-minded, and politicians more level-headed and less boastful, we will all be better off.
Author Bio: Michael D. Purzycki is a researcher and analyst in Arlington, Virginia. He has worked in the Pentagon, at Bloomberg, and for a Los Angeles-based media company. He has written for many publications, including Better Angels, Charged Affairs, Divergent Options, Merion West, and the Washington Monthly.
Our Daily Bread
RafifJ, Malaga, Spain
It’s hard to stay angry in #Malaga, especially when the sun is out. Walking toward the fresh market, I realized again that this city always feels like it’s giving me a big hug.
Today I took a break from work and lockdown to go out (grocery shopping). I enjoyed every step along the quiet streets. I basked in the sunshine. I thought about the shuttered shops I was passing on my way to the market. Whatever happened to the hairdresser, the one whose husband lives in Granada? Are they reunited – or separated by the current travel restrictions? And what about the cranky lady at the bakery, the one who occasionally cracks a smile at my wish for her to have a “buen dia” after she hands me freshly baked bread?
As I made my way to the fresh market, I noticed the streets: they were glistening, fresh from their daily “bath.” Seriously. In Malaga, street cleaners literally wash the streets with soap and water.
Strangers in unexpected roles have become my heroes. Not to take anything away from medical professionals – they are, as they say in Arabic, “on my head.” But those who so often go unnoticed – the grocer, the street cleaner – are now also front and center in the fight for normalcy. We should have known this; I should have been thanking them more every day. Every one of them should get at least a “buen dia” for their service.
So now, when I get the chance to step outside, it will be with a different perspective. I’ll look at people through different lenses. I’ll remember to thank the street cleaner and the baker and all the others who keep the shelves stocked and the bugs at bay. I’ll thank them for their service to the community, and hope the city gives them a hug too.
Online/Offline Bad Hair Day
RJD in Beirut, Lebanon
Due to the current lockdowns, I sit here listening to my husband click on the keyboard as he presents an online course (he is answering students on a discussion thread). Five straight hours husband-sitting in case he needs my genius technical support.
What would we do without Internet, technology, devices, social media? I’m holding my phone as I write this – I have completed every chore I do on my phone on a daily basis: read the headlines, play my word games, check my emails, answer my messages. But I am vehemently resisting going on social media. Battery at 54%.
I feel that there is too much positivity and negativity on social media and I am actually tired of all the news. Corona, #COVID-19, pets being abandoned, challenges, jokes, good articles, bad advice. Exhausting. I am also very down today. Bloody time, me thinks!
So, after the 5 hours, my thoughts rotate to decisions:
- Take a break and do something different that doesn’t require a device. Battery at 32% now…(Took a nap, highly unusual)
- Do some random act of kindness to someone who doesn’t expect it. Not an April Fool’s prank because no one can deal right now…(sent a donation to a poor refugee family)
- Do something nice for myself and my family (didn’t snap at anyone – up to the time of writing)
- Enjoy the moment (ummmm…not working thus far.)
I am sorry not to be upbeat or funny today. It’s a bad online/offline hair day. Battery at 0%.
It’s 5 o’clock somewhere!
Tina F. in Fairfax, VA
This is a story about Jack and Jill.
Well, it’s really about my husband and me. (yes that is grammatically correct) You see I had to change the names because he said “ I hope you are not writing about me in your blog” and I answered of course not, that would be so boring. Heheh !!! but I’ll write about Jack.
Jack and Jill have been married 24 years. Jack has been the greatest example of someone who sets their mind on something and achieves it. He decided he would retire early and worked his ass off to reach that goal on 1/1/2020.
So many people were commiserating with Jill because she was now joining the ranks of “retired husband makes wife crazy” league. They asked questions and give advice.
“What is he going to do all day?”
“Does he have hobbies? “
“This happened to my friend and 2 months after he retired she ended up going back to work. “
“Tina..er I mean Jill, you need to find outlets for your own sanity.”
Jill was not worried because she and her husband had a lot of hobbies and a lot in common. So for the months of January and February Jack and Jill had no problem with each other’s company. They balanced their time together and their time apart.
They went out to DC to museums and restaurants, they went to happy hour and movies and took short trips together. Jill was reassured that this was going to be just fine.
All was perfect until mid March when the coronavirus changed everything.
Forced to stay home, Jack and Jill were becoming irritable and very short- tempered. Simple discussions became arguments and Netflix hardly had any movies that were both interested in.
In addition, Jack is technology challenged so when the computer runs out of ink he yells for Jill. When the music system is acting up he yells for Jill. And when the ice maker wasn’t making ice … you guessed it… he yells for Jill.
Jill was going a little mad. Until they found the one thing that still appealed to the two of them – Happy Hour and a bottle named Tito’s ! This was a game changer. The music played and they danced. Not together, but they danced.
Well cheers to you all! Here is to an end of this captivity and a quick return “normalcy!”
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